Holding Up 4 Fingers – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Have you seen someone who is ‘holding up four fingers’ somewhere on a social media website and need to know what it could mean? The sign of ‘holding up four fingers’ has become a common sight, with some users of the opinion that most of the content could be a hoax. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this supposed hand signal.


The common sign of ‘holding up four fingers’ on social media can be used to mean several things at once.

As a hand signal that is sometimes seen on social media websites like YouTube and TikTok, the first meaning of ‘four fingers held up’ can be related to sports. In football, the sign of holding up four fingers means that the team is about to (or have entered) the game’s fourth quarter.

The other common meaning of someone holding up four fingers is considered by some to be an unspoken emergency signal to other internet users.

When a user is unable to speak or voice the fact that they might be in immediate danger, some users believe that ‘holding up four fingers’ can be a sign to others.

Unfortunately, the sign is only useful to other people who know what it means and some users have deliberately used the sign as an attempt to troll other users on social media websites.

The sign can sometimes be used as an emergency signal, though this is sometimes difficult to verify within the true context. Some users still believe that seeing four fingers held up is worth reporting the content as containing possible flagged content for law enforcement.

Example Usage

“If you can’t make a phone call or let anyone know that you might be in immediate danger, I’ve heard that you should flash the ‘four fingers held up’ sign to the camera and other social media users will know to file a report.”

“I saw my grandfather hold up four fingers and I was going to call my grandma to ask her if he’s okay, but apparently he was just watching the football game. Who knew it could mean something else too?”

“If you want to let other social media users know that you might be in danger and you need help,  apparently you’ve got to hold up four fingers somewhere the camera can see.”

“I think this guy looks a little like that drawing of the Station Strangler if you drew him with glasses. Hold up four fingers so someone can get us out of here.”


The origin of holding up four fingers as a supposed emergency signal is heavily disputed through several different resources on the internet, with the exact first use of it difficult to verify – as most myths and urban legends that spread through popular media eventually become.

It might have partially originated from the popular idea that the word for “four” is close to “death” in Chinese, and thus would mean danger.

The idea of the emergency signal is said to have originated somewhere on TikTok in the 2020s, when users started to insert this supposed “signal” for other users in some of their content posted on the social media platform.

The signal is almost certainly discussed on the internet more than it actually gets seen in content, leading some to question the validity of the sign as a real help.

Live streaming, with potential dangerous situations, has made the mention of this term more popular.

As of 2022, there have been very few actual news reports that attribute the signal to saving anyone who was in an emergency (but if more people know about the potential ‘signal’ and its meaning, this might not always be the case).

Phrases Similar to Four Fingers

  • N/a

Phrases Opposite to Four Fingers

  • N/a

What is the Correct Saying?

  • ‘Four fingers held up’

Ways People May Say Four Fingers Incorrectly

The term can be misunderstood, or used in a context where someone is not actually in danger.

Sometimes, the term is used as a deliberate troll or attempt to mislead other users into an internet rabbit hole or false mystery.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Four Fingers

The correct supposed use of the term is considered to be four fingers held up where the camera can see it, as a means to signal to other users that the person giving the signal is in possible danger.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *